Dogs are lovely creatures and make excellent companions. But there is a raft of lies, falsehoods and dog training myths the dog owner needs to be aware of. As a dog owner, your responsibility is to care and train your dog to the best of your ability. Often this will mean that you may need to seek advice to achieve this. Be cautious who you get that advice from, and don’t believe everything they may tell you.
There’s plenty of literature out there about positive, modern, pain-free dog training methods. You can begin to debunk most dog training myths on your own by finding scientific evidence by researching the subject.
So, to get you started here are 25 dog training myths to help you figure out what you can and cannot believe.
#1. You Must Act as the “alpha” is one of the Dog Training Myths
You must always act as the ‘alpha’ to be able to train your dog? It appears these type of dog training myths stem from the fact that dogs are distantly related to wolves. Over time, people came to think that they too should act like wolves because of a dog’s very distant ancestry. However, this is a huge misconception. Firstly our pet dogs are not Wolves, so we only have dogs, not distant Wolves sitting by our firesides.
Dogs are not Wolves.
Its, thought this myth came from a study of captive wolves and this original study started “alpha” theory. The study was flawed because it was conducted with captive wolves who were not related so that there was more rivalry between the group. Studies carried out on wolves in the wild rubbish the original theory. Wolves are, in fact, like us, living in communities and family units. There’s no ‘boss’ in these family groups as the so-called “Alpha,” is usually the most experienced animal who leads the family unit with its best survival strategies. Read more here
#2. Dogs need to be Punished when they Misbehave.
You should never punish an animal – full stop! This is one of the really bad dog training myths. Often an untrained dog is unaware of what is expected of him and will continue to behave as what he sees as ‘normal’. Punishing a dog who is unaware that he’s displeased you will only make him afraid of you. Punishing a dog by yelling, hitting, or using an aversive training tool like a choke chain is counterproductive. Over time, this type of training might save your best pair of leather shoes. But will often result in a confused, insecure, and fearful dog rather than the confident well-trained dog you’re aiming for. If you are under the impression that you’ve trained your dog and he’s still misbehaving, it’s obvious his training isn’t complete.
#3. Without a Treat, a Positive-trained dog will not listen to you.
In the first stages of positive, reward-based training, treats are often used to reward your dog. Even though treats are used, this doesn’t mean that you’re training your dog to change his behaviour for the reward of a treat. When you do this, you aren’t bribing him, but instead, you’re getting your dog to associate the feeling of being happy and rewarded when he complies. You can start to phase out the treat rewards once your dog learns to respond to the cues you give him (like sit or stay). Dogs will repeat behaviours he’s been rewarded for in the past. He’ll even repeat these behaviours without you having a treat in your hand and will continue to respond to cues. Those cues will need to be consistent, and then you can start rewarding him (we all need rewards) with loads of praise and a toy.
#4. Your dog won’t respect you if you let him sleep in your bed.
A dog will respect you for the love you give him. He’ll also feel more secure, as will you when he sleeps with or near you. I’ve always dismissed this as one of the numerous dog training myths. I gave my dogs the choice of sleeping on my bed. One chose to sleep in my room, and the other likes to be in her own room. About having your dogs in the house and near you, I don’t understand why people get dogs to leave them outside 24/7. Working dogs are the exception, but they’re often provided with substantial living quarters.
#5. You know your dog did something wrong if he looks “guilty.”
Dogs don’t feel guilt, but they are excellent at reading body language. So, what does that guilty look mean?
The “guilty dog” look is seen in various contexts, many of which have nothing to do with bad behaviour. Instead, your dog is reading your body language. If you’ve returned home after an awful day or returned to find something you’re not happy about, your dog will know. Even if your annoyance isn’t about your dog, you’re displaying in front of him, making him defensive and ‘guilty-looking’.
#6. Training a Dog is not Fun is the False Dog Training Myth.
Training a dog is one of the biggest ‘fun’ things you can do. As you start to bond with your dog through training, he’ll begin to respect you and will become eager to please you. Training a dog is not only fun, its rewarding for both of you as you grow together, and the bond between you grows stronger. You may even get the bonus of becoming fitter too.
#7. My Dog Is Just Stubborn and Refuses to Learn
Stubbornness is a human trait, and a label we will often give to a dog we think is not listening to us on purpose. When, in fact, it has been shown that often there is a logical cause that your dog is not listening to you. If your dog is distracted because of pain, fear, or anxiety, you’ll have great difficulty getting him to concentrate on any training sessions. He may be confused because he doesn’t understand what you are asking of him. This one of those dog training myths that you’ll need to dismiss to achieve anything with your dog,
#8. Positive Reinforcement Training Isn’t for Large, Fearful, Aggressive Or “Difficult Dogs.”
Training is beneficial for all types, sizes, and difficult dogs, and makes a big difference to a shy or fearful dog’s confidence level. Positive reinforcement dog training has the benefit of allowing you to open the lines of communication with your dog without pushing it beyond its comfort level. Training a dog with ‘problems’ will probably take longer as you’ll need to take things easy, even just sitting near the dog so that he can begin to trust you in his own time. You can even start training without asking him to do anything. As your dog learns and you both begin the bonding process, he’ll become more confident, and trusting, and many of his fears will start to retreat.
#9. You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Yes, you can. This dog training myth is basically an old idiom, a saying, with no truth attached to it. Whatever the dog’s age, and so long as he’s not exhibiting signs of any significant cognitive dysfunction, he can learn new things. In fact, it is often the case that they are easier to train as they’ve passed their youthful boisterousness. Training him may take longer, as you’ll need to take in to account any hearing, sight, and mobility problems he may have due to age.
#10. You can’t train a dog that doesn’t like treats.
Not all dogs will be interested in working for treats, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be trained! You’ll need to find out what motivates your dog it can be something as simple as an ear rub, or a thrown ball, frisbee or loads of praise. You can dismiss this as another one of the misconceptions of dog training myths. Think of ‘police sniffer dogs’ who often work like mad for a thrown tennis ball as a reward.
#11. Playing Tug Will Make My Dog Aggressive
There is nothing wrong with a great tug game, so long as the rules are adhered to. These include teaching your dog the ‘drop’ command and never allowing teeth anywhere near human flesh. Often, when playing tug with a puppy, he’ll start to growl and get over-excited and this, I suspect is where this dog training myth came from. But once you’ve taught him how to play correctly, a game of tug is a good way of getting rid of excess energy.
#12. Rubbing a Dog’s Nose in Urine is a false Dog Training Myth.
Rubbing your dog’s nose in his own urine or faeces when house training him is a type of abuse. If he has an ‘accident’ indoors, it’s probably because his house training isn’t complete. Pushing your dog’s nose in his own excrement will only make him fear and resent you. It will also encourage him to pee or poop in secret places, and you may not find it until your house starts to smell. The only way to teach him to use the outdoors as his toilet is with constant and empathetic training with plenty of praise.
#13. It is OK to Shout and Scream at your dog.
Screaming at a dog after-the-fact is ineffective and the equivalent of shouting at a brick wall. Your dog lives in the present, and cannot, therefore, make the correlation between something he has or has not done earlier. He’ll have no memory of what has happened and as he doesn’t understand human language so, will not know why you’re screaming at him. He may cower and even look guilty as if he’s aware of what he has done. But don’t be fooled as he is only sensing your anger and is reacting to it. Yelling at your pet may have negative long-term effects and may even make your dog’s behaviour worse!
#14. My Dog Is a Dumb Breed so He Can’t Learn
All the research on dog intelligence has not proven this dog training myth to be true. There is no evidence that a dog’s particular breed determines his level of intelligence. Therefore, it is presumed that all dogs are intelligent, and they can all learn. You’ll need to take the time to figure out how to develop a relationship with your dog and know what motivates him to be successful.
#15. He’ll Grow out of It is one of the dog training myths.
No, he won’t, as puppies are not born with mind-reading abilities. A puppy will do what comes naturally or what he may have learned from his mother and littermates. He’ll be unaware that things like chewing, constant barking and nipping are inappropriate behaviours to his human owner. Puppies need training in most aspects of good behaviours. However, there is a smidgen of truth in the fact that some irritating puppy behaviours may ease as your pup gets older.
#16. Puppies Can’t Be Trained Until They Are at Least 6 Months Old.
From the moment a puppy is born, he will start to learn, so, no, you don’t need to wait until they’re six months old. Training should begin from day one and then continue into adulthood. Obviously, the type of training he receives should fit in with his age and capabilities. Start slow, with the first few important things like house training, the sit and stay commands. Once he’s mastered those, he can move on to the more demanding commands. Do make training sessions into a game so that he’ll be learning and having fun at the same time. NEVER use force or domination when training as this only leads to a fearful and resentful dog.
#17. Dogs Resent Training is a Huge Fat Lie.
If a training session is set out like a game, your dog won’t even realize he’s being trained as he’s having too much fun. With the correct type of training, most dogs will love the challenges and of course, the rewards. But, as mentioned above a dog will resent his training if forced or verbal abuse is used. Trying to dominate a dog to comply with his training is doomed to failure.
#18. You need to use a ‘Clicker’ to Train a Dog Successfully.
People use clickers to train their dogs and click when their dog does something good. They will then follow up the click with a treat, but the clicker interferes with the interaction between you and your dog. You can communicate with your dog, and he can hear and understand your commands –without a clicker. So, this is another dog training myth, as you don’t NEED a clicker to train your dog, of course, if you prefer to use one, that’s your choice.
#19. My Dog Peed on My Bed Because He’s Mad at Me
Another one of those misconceptions of dog training myths. There is no evidence that dogs can think that if they pee on your bed, they’ll be getting revenge on you. Dogs brains do not think that way as they don’t have the same human thought processes and assimilate things differently. Rather than revenge, your dog may have a medical, is suffering from anxiety, or his training isn’t complete.
#20. If I Use Food to Train, I Will Always Have to Use Food
Unable to train your dog without using a food treat is dog training myth as food is often used at the beginning of training only. As the dog progresses in his training, food treats are slowly replaced by other rewards depending on the dog. Toys, praise, play, and freedom are all rewards dogs will respond to you’ll not need other treats to get your dog’s attention. Dog training competitions do not allow food treats either.
#21. I Do Everything “First” so My Dog Knows I’m Boss and Will Listen to Me.
You need to get your dog’s attention by Positive reinforcement dog training and not by dominance. Bonding with your dog will help your dog to respect you and be more acceptable to his training. There’s no need to be the ‘boss’ to your dog so long as you treat him with respect and kindness he’ll already know. Teaching your dog manners is appropriate, and not you trying to dominate your dog. Manners such as waiting until you’ve finished your dinner until getting his or not barging passed your through a door.
#22. Prong/shock/chain collars will correct the problem easily.
Using any aversive products WILL NOT eradicate problem behaviours on their own, and any behavioural changes they cause are temporary. These types of training tools are not only inhumane but are positively dangerous. Dogs have been known to be severely injured, some have also died by using these types of so-called training tools. No responsible trainer would ever use this method, and they should be banned from public use. Using a collar like this is probably one of the worse dog training myths people believe.
#23. A dog should understand a verbal command immediately.
If a dog hasn’t been taught verbal commands correctly, he’ll not know what’s going on. He can’t speak your language so won’t know what you’re talking about. He’s a dog! He needs training in a kind and sympathetic way. Starting with the two main commands of ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ will act as training building blocks once he has managed to master those commands.
#24. Dog Training Myths include Crate training a dog is cruel.
If dogs are not trained to enjoy their crate space gradually or are left in it for extended amounts of time every day, they can learn to associate their crate with the stress they feel while inside it. Misusing a crate is cruel and can lead to problems.
However, since we occasionally need to go places where our dogs are not welcome, it helps to have a containment strategy that keeps your dog safe, out of trouble, and happy until you come back. So, not all crate training is cruel is another dog training myth.
Getting your dog used to his crate gradually while using positive reinforcement training strategies is a great way to keep your dog from doing anything you’ll be upset about when you get back.
#25. A Dog Trainer Can Train Your Dog for You.
If you get a dog trainer to train your dog in the hope, he’ll obey you and respect you is a dog training myth. The most important dog training factor is earning the dog’s respect – building a relationship by bonding with your dog. Nobody can do that for you.
Of course, you can train your dog with a trainer’s help, but you need to be present to learn how and what he is being taught.
Taking the time to train your dog yourself, using the correct techniques, will not only result in a well-behaved dog but a wonderful relationship between the two of you.
There are always so-called ‘experts’ on how to train your dog. They’re ready to give you their advice on dog training. There’s a possibility some of the information could be useful, but often it is darn right dangerous for you and your dog. If you hear a piece of advice that you think sounds cruel – ignore it. All training must be done with care and kindness if you need any advice contact a Veterinarian or reputable dog trainer who will help or direct you to an appropriate help source.